Just the two of them

Sept. 22, 2006

By Jacob Quinn Sanders
Portland Tribune

There are just the two of them: Multnomah County sheriff’s office deputy Christopher Green and Portland police officer Joseph Hanousek.

For seeking a flower tattoo on women he pulled over on traffic stops, Green is the more recently infamous one, and Hanousek has been in the same law-enforcement limbo for three years.

Out of almost 2,000 sworn local law-enforcement officers in Multnomah County, spread across four agencies, they are the only two whom the district attorney’s office has refused to use as witnesses in criminal cases absent extraordinary circumstances.

The district attorney’s office considers the officers untrustworthy – in essence lacking credibility to help prosecute criminals. And while they represent a minuscule number, the unusual practices surrounding the two officers can have a significant effect on the criminal justice system.

Criminal cases have been dismissed because the district attorney’s office refused to use the two as witnesses, prosecutors said. And District Attorney Michael Schrunk says that in some instances, he would rather have convicted felons testify than call Green or Hanousek.

“And yes, we will call those types of people before we will call these two individuals, if we have that choice,” he said. “But understand: We don’t have anything to do with the records these guys built for themselves.”

Green could not be reached for comment independently or through his union. Hanousek, through Portland police spokesman Detective Paul Dolbey, declined comment.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Norm Frink said the decisions were not without consequences for the district attorney’s office. The reluctance to call Green and Hanousek to testify meant he had to drop criminal charges filed against people he believed were guilty.

“I don’t have a comprehensive list, but there have been some drug and traffic cases where we just couldn’t go forward,” he said. “That’s not a position I like being in, but that’s reality.”

Criminal defense attorney Lisa Ludwig said she knows firsthand what the district attorney’s office is afraid of should Green or Hanousek testify: hard cross-examinations that destroy a cop’s credibility on the witness stand.

She said she remembers a drug case seven or eight years ago in which Hanousek took the stand and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights instead of answering questions about himself. Ludwig said she did not remember the result of the case.

And she recalled one Portland cop, Rocky Balada, whom the district attorney’s office perhaps should have kept from testifying based on his history, Ludwig said.

Balada was perhaps best known for a melee that occurred after one of his arrests outside the Satyricon nightclub in 1990.

“You’d get a Balada case and you’d dance around in the office and tell all your friends and then borrow a colleague’s Balada file,” Ludwig said. “You could get him on the stand and just pull his pants down. That’s a defense attorney’s idea of a good time.”

Balada has been off work on a stress-related disability claim since 2001. He did not return a phone message left at his home.

Yet when prosecutors bar cops from testifying, police are left feeling undercut and accused, even when no charges have been filed or proven against them.

Portland police union President Robert King said the district attorney’s office harms cops when it refuses to call them to testify.

“Don’t you think that if they really thought he was dirty, if they thought he was a bad cop, they would have come up with something that stuck?” King asked, referring to Hanousek. “So what do they have really? Nothing. But the problem is, that nothing is having a negative effect on Joe’s career.”

King said it was a stigma that cops would always try to remove.

Hanousek tried earlier this year to get into prosecutors’ good graces. He met Feb. 7 with a union representative, Frink and Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark McDonnell, according to an internal district attorney’s office memo dated Feb. 15.

Hanousek did not change their minds.

“In short, while we would be willing to review any further material on any of the incidents that might be provided, the reasons for our current stance on using Officer Hanousek as a witness continues to stand,” the prosecutors wrote in the memo.

Two days after Schrunk received the memo, he forwarded it to then-Chief Derrick Foxworth, who did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Portland police Chief Rosie Sizer declined to comment for this story.

DA bluffs to get pleas

Even having taken that position, the district attorney’s office has nonetheless tried to prosecute cases filed by Green and Hanousek, sometimes by apparently bluffing.

Internal district attorney’s office e-mails released in response to a Portland Tribune records request show efforts to get defendants to plead guilty even though prosecutors knew they were unlikely to use Green as a witness.

In one case in May, Deputy District Attorney Kevin Demer asked his superiors whether he should offer a plea deal to a six-time convicted thief by ignoring the defendant’s status as a repeat property offender, or RPO.

“So, do I make non-RPO offer and try my best to resolve it?” Demer wrote May 8 to Senior Deputy District Attorney Gary Meabe. “Unable to prove case without Green.”

The defendant, William Baker, 46, nonetheless pleaded guilty to four counts: attempt to elude a law enforcement officer, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, resisting arrest, and escape.

Ludwig, who was not involved in that case, said the issue of prosecutors seeking guilty pleas for cases they are likely to lose in court raised questions for her about fairness.

“It’s not a great practice to be engaged in,” she said. “It doesn’t look good.”

Cop put on leave

Prosecutors, however, said both Green and Hanousek have forced them into such a position by providing such good reasons to be excluded from criminal cases.

Sheriff Bernie Giusto placed Green on paid administrative leave this week after the district attorney’s office reopened a criminal investigation into what the office called the deputy’s “bizarre and disturbing” conduct toward women in traffic stops.

Giusto said this week he also is petitioning the Oregon Board of Police Standards and Training to revoke Green’s police certification, which could allow the sheriff to fire him.

Even before reopening its criminal investigation, the district attorney’s office pressed the sheriff’s office to remove him from prominent assignments, internal e-mails among prosecutors show.

Numerous women have come forward beginning in 2004 accusing Green of stopping their vehicles and asking them to remove their bras or unzip their pants while he looked for a flower tattoo.

When confronted in November 2004 with some of the information against him, Green lied to a supervisor, according to an internal district attorney’s office memo dated March 4, 2005.

Suspended without pay at one point – the sheriff’s office has declined to say precisely when or for how long – Green returned to patrol after he served his suspension.

The district attorney’s office notified the sheriff’s office verbally in April that it would no longer call Green as a witness absent extraordinary circumstances, according to internal district attorney’s office e-mails. Schrunk formalized the decision with a letter to Giusto dated Sept. 11.

“You have to understand, a decision like that makes it almost impossible for an individual to perform the full duties of a law-enforcement officer,” Giusto said.

Green’s union president, Detective Todd Shanks, had no comment.

Pattern of transgressions

Hanousek’s list of transgressions is much longer, according to the district attorney’s office, and prosecutors have avoided calling him as a witness since 2003.

Hanousek’s superiors removed him from the street, acknowledging that he could not be effective as a police officer given the district attorney’s position, King said.

Supervisors assigned him first to performing background investigations for the police bureau’s reserve program, and more recently to the Telephone Report Unit, where he does no fieldwork.

The internal district attorney’s office memo dated Feb. 15 refers to a number of incidents supporting the prosecutors’ position.

In 1997, Hanousek’s then-partner was convicted of selling drugs he’d collected on the job. Hanousek was investigated and not charged, though “the deputy district attorney handling the case felt that Officer Hanousek had probably, at the very least, been untruthful with investigators.”

A year earlier, prosecutors wanted to charge him with prostitution – a charge that under Oregon law can be leveled against anyone buying or selling sex – after a ham-radio operator overheard him having a sexually explicit conversation on a police bureau cell phone while on duty.

“Again prosecution was declined, this time because critical evidence appeared to be subject to suppression, but, again, we felt that Officer Hanousek had been untruthful with investigators and, this time, guilty of a crime,” according to the memo.

Though it is not mentioned in the memo, a police bureau whistleblower named Hanousek as one of the worst offenders in a 1999 overtime controversy known as Centralgate, according to a sworn deposition on file with the city attorney’s office.

Hanousek, the Feb. 15 district attorney’s office memo says, also developed a pattern of not showing up for court appointments, sometimes leading to the dismissal of criminal charges.

Criminal defense lawyer Shelley Keller filed an Internal Affairs Division complaint against him in 2003 for untruthfulness and violation of procedure after Hanousek asked a court coordinator to backdate his claim that he was unavailable to testify, though the hearing already had taken place.

The complaint was sustained by then-Capt. Darrel Schenck, who at the time was in charge of internal affairs. Higher-ups in the police bureau, “for reasons that are not readily apparent to us,” overturned Schenck’s finding, the memo says.

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